About Jazz Music

Why Jazz is so unique
CLASSIC
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Characters team Jul 28. 2016
by Characters team
We collected a few interesting things to prove why Jazz is so unique.

Sources:
allaboutjazz
jazzinamerica
apassion4jazz
mensxp
encyclopedia


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Though jazz and classic blues are really early twentieth-century black music innovations, certain characteristics found in jazz do have their roots in much earlier musical traditions. Call and response, improvisation, the appropriation and reinvention of elements from Western art music: black music in the twentieth-century has never held a monopoly on these musical practices. 

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Perhaps the difference between 'downtown' and 'uptown' black style even began during this era. On the one hand there were the plaintive call-and-response hollers and 'sperchils' to be found in the tobacco fields, cotton plantations, and sugar marshes that stretched from Virginia to Texas. These instances of black music-making were largely produced by and for a black slave community that understood the significance of the music in ways that whites never could. Scholars have often noted the hidden meaning of field hollers and the significance of the drums to communication between various slave groups. The drums were even banned in the British Caribbean. Meanwhile, 'uptown', there were the slaves that played for planter functions.

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Despite the fact that the vast majority of blacks lived in the South, there were some freemen and women in the North. Indeed, they even had their own autonomous cultural venues, like the African Grove theater in New York City. But perhaps an even more important agent in spreading black musical style to the North during the first half of the nineteenth century was minstrelsy.

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Some form of music shaped by the black experience in the United States had appeared in both the South and the North by the time of the Civil War. Likewise, New Orleans--being the center of the American slave trade--had already taken on special significance in the history of black music-making in America.

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Jazz is hands down, the most hybrid form of music in the world. Drawing from the largest number of influences, including everything from African rhythms, to European Chamber Music to modern day pop elements! Going by those three vastly different genres alone, it's quite apparent that there's truth to this fact!

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Improvisation is inventing something on the spur of the moment and in response to a certain situation; in jazz, it is when musicians perform a different interpretation each time they play the same tune, i.e., a tune is never played the exact same way twice, whether played by the same musicians or an entirely different group; the improvisation becomes its own musical dialogue between band members without any preconceived notion of what the final outcome will be. With jazz, because of its improvisational aspect, the musicians are communicating the “emotion of the moment;” that is, the emotion they are feeling WHILE they are performing (remember, when improvising they are deciding what notes to play as they respond to the music of the moment and of the other musicians).

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Despite its often improvisational character, jazz benefited from a number of talented composers. Instrumentalists such as Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus (1922–1979), Miles Davis, Horace Silver, Thelonious Monk (1917–1982), Sun Ra (1914–1993), Wayne Shorter, and Randy Weston contributed to the growing body of jazz music, as did Duke Ellington and his collaborator Billy Strayhorn (1915–1967). Ellington and Strayhorn, both pianists, forged a productive association, writing Ellington’s theme song, “Take the ‘A’ Train” (1941), as well as other well-known favorites played by the Ellington orchestra. More recently, other composers have continued jazz’s evolution, including Jeff Wains and Wynton Marsalis.

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Jazz musicians can create new elements and moods to any song; for instance, an up- tempo (fast) song can be played as a ballad (slow song) and vice versa.  Jazz musicians have their own, unique way of playing their instruments.

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This may not be recorded in anything of true repute, but most jazz musicians will concur that Louisiana has out the greatest volume of jazz musicians and instrumentalists in the world. Which makes it just as famous for its jazz unease as it is for its crawfish, gumbo and crooked politics!

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The Saxophone is quite easily one of the most distinct jazz instruments around but it never found a place in the genre until 1920. Previously cited as a Belgian instrument reserved for chambers and orchestral performances, it was America's 6 Brown Brothers who brought it to the limelight in jazz as recording stars and since then, at the risk of sounding trite, there's been no looking back!

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As jazz became more esoteric, it became more sophisticated than popular. Although it continued to influence the styles of newer music, such as rock and roll, its audience shrank to those who could appreciate its difficulties, and jazz no longer played as direct a role in the evolution of popular music.

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Jazz of the later twentieth century continued to develop multiple styles—free jazz, soul jazz, jazz-rock fusion—that represented attempts to reclaim jazz as a specifically black musical tradition, even though jazz continued to be an integrated effort. 

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Jazz is a complex form of music, so it often doesn’t have “instant appeal” like other more familiar styles of music, such as pop, rock, rap, and hip-hop. A jazz tune sometimes takes many listenings to begin to enjoy it.

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Nat Adderley - "I never heard of a Jazz musician who retired. You love what you do, so what are you going to do... play for the walls?”

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Louis Armstrong - "If I don't practice for a day, I know it... for two days, the critics know it... three days, the public knows it.”

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Louis Armstrong was born in New Orleans, Louisiana to a very poor family as his grandparents were slaves. His father abandoned his family when Louis was an infant, and his mother left him and his sister to be cared for by their grandmother. Armstrong grew up to be one of the most influential jazz music figures in history. He came to prominence in 1920's as a cornet and trumpet "inventive" player. With his gravelly voice, Armstrong demonstrated great deftness as a music improviser as he blended melody and lyrics of songs for the purpose of expressing himself. Louis was also a skilled scat singer and was responsible for the recognition of a trumpet as a stand alone instrument.

"Hot can be cool & cool can be hot & each can be both. But hot or cool man, Jazz is Jazz.”

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Miles Dewey Davis III, more commonly known as Miles Davis, was born in Alton, Illinois to an affluent African-American family. His father was a dentist, and he moved the family to Illinois’s East St. Louis in 1927. It was in Illinois that Davis developed an interest for music as a young man. He grew up listening to music in church. His mother, being a capable blues pianist, wanted her son to learn the piano. He started studying music at 13 with a trumpet he got from his mother. Davis grew up to be a jazz musician, composer, trumpeter, and band leader. He was also one of the people who were at the forefront of many jazz music developments.

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